This is a beautifully written and translated autobiographical novel (actually it's a translation of 2 books in one volume). The author, a Polish Jew, survived World War II in hiding with his mother. These early sections are riveting, as even though you, the reader, know he survives, you don't know how many of his relatives and friends do or don't. After the war his mother marries a rising star in the Communist Party, and he becomes a pampered young "prince," although he is ambivalent about this status. This is one of the few books (at least that have been translated into English) that deal with the Stalinist period in Poland in a somewhat sympathetic way, so it's very interesting from the historical point of view. It's also a coming-of-age story of a young man who went through a hellish time as a small child and is struggling to make sense of his memories, of his place in the world, and of what he should believe in.